David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 154: Tones On Tail (Twist)

June 13, 2022

Is there a more tired trope in pop music than the twist? 

A great example of a 50's dance craze allowing for more not-so-subtle songs about dancing that were really about screwing, "twisting" has been appropriated through hundreds of songs since Chubby Checker made a cover of "The Twist" a number one hit. Since then, among the more notable takes of a twist have been The Beatles' "Twist And Shout," Sam Cooke's (and Rod Stewart's) "Twistin' The Night Away," Joey Dee and The Starlighters' "The Peppermint Twist," The Isley Brothers' "Do The Twist," Elton John's "Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock and Roll)," Dire Straits' "Twisting By The Pool," The Traveling Wilbury's "Wilbury Twist," Frightened Rabbit's "The Twist," Erasure's "Then I Go Twisting," The White Stripes' "The Denial Twist," and They Might Be Giants' "Twist." All of them are good songs to twist to, in either interpretation, but none are the best because they lack one thing: seagulls.

Not even Dire Straits thought to add seagulls to "Twisting By The Pool."

However, the seagulls on Tones On Tails' very obscure "Twist" bring the act of twisting to the "dying sea and sky," so well that when I hear seagulls, I think of this song before I think of the beach.

Tones on Tail basically weave five elements into "Twist." First, we get an electronic drum beat and percussive effects that sound like dripping water (and created, I think, through plucked guitar strings) that would have Vince Vega and Mia Wallace slowly moving toward the dance floor. 

Then, the first of several fantastically crisp guitar riffs take over, and hips begin to move more seductively, followed by our seagulls, apropos of nothing, or maybe apropos of everything, adding a layer of sound later to be replaced by Daniel Ash's long sighs: "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh." Eventually the song evolves as waves of electronic drum beat, percussive water drips, incredible guitar riffs, the seagulls, and non-sensical lyrics:

As tomorrow's man and a headless bee/

Jump over your head, remember me/

Don't get confused by a dying sky and sea./

The Panda club has an odds on bet/

Mr. Music Man needs a string quartet/

On the planet where the alphabet starts with Z.

The usual online idiots think they can decode these lyrics, including someone who says tomorrow's man is Superman and the headless bee is Lex Luthor. Perhaps, this interpretation is true. After all, what do I know about Bizarro World? I only heard about Bizarro World a month ago. (I am old and out of touch, what did you expect?)

It's the lines "man and moon plays a melody that you can't forget/So remember me" that seem to suggest this area where the land meets the sun, where lunar pull dictate the tides of life, providing, I suppose, the context for our seagulls.

Most online lyric sites have the final line as "twist with tomorrow's man and me," but I have never heard Ash saying "with." It sounds like a second "twist," (or if I really want to hear things "quiz"). Thus, I believe the song is "Twist, twist, tomorrow's man and me," which takes out a third party to the twisting, and more importantly emphasizes the dance being done at the end of the world, real or Bizarro.

If twisting (and Bizarro World, for that matter) are about inversion, then Tones On Tail have perfected the art of making (no) sense. After all, they buried this tremendous song as a B side. Music Man needs more than a string quartet. He needs a better manager.

Tones On Tail. "Twist." Christian Says. Beggars Banquet. 1984. Link here.

Day 153: Tom Lehrer "Be Prepared."

Day 155: Alice Cooper "School's Out."

See complete list here.